Bridging Hillel: Venezuela

Venezuela - Wikipedia

“Diversity is not about how we differ. 

Diversity is about embracing one another’s differences.” 

Ola Joseph

In Scheck Hillel, we take pride in the wide range of diverse backgrounds represented by our student body. Did you know that we come from 19 different countries, spanning across 4 different continents? Despite all of our differences, we come together as one united Jewish community. In addition to celebrating and practicing our shared religion (Judaism), it’s crucial to relish in our differences as well. In this article, I aim to shed light on one particular background that’s heavily represented by our student body: Venezuela.

Myself an immigrant from Venezuela, I can attest that our unique culture is represented in many different ways. Whether it be our food and music or our general approach to tough situations and difficult times, our culture affects every aspect of our lives. 

At one point, living here in Miami, you must have tried an arepa, right? At the very least, you must have heard about them. The Arepa is a very popular dish in all Latin American countries, especially in Venezuela. The arepa is based on corn-flour, shaped like a circle, and has a crisp outer layer with a soft filling. This soft filling is removed, and then you choose what to put inside. The most common way to fill an Arepa is with cheese, but many opt for other options. This dish is just delicious, and many (if not all) Venezuelans consume it every week, if not every day. Two Venezuelan restaurants, “Doggis” and “Avila Bistro,” are good restaurants where many can enjoy this dish, in addition to all other traditional Venezuela dishes. Trust me, there’s a lot of them. 

The “reggaeton” music genre is loved by all Venezuelans. Especially in Miami, it is played at almost every single social gathering or event, no matter if it is a bar mitzvah or wedding. “Chino y Nacho” are very popular artists in Venezuela, in addition to other Latin American artists such as “Bad Bunny” and “Rauw Alejandro.” In addition, we love to dance “Merengue” and “Salsa” to other, more-traditional music.

From our food and music, one can tell that Venezuelans are generally lively, happy people. We fill our Arepas with fun, unique fillings, and dance our nights away to “Reggaeton.” But what many don’t see is the resilience and drive that is present in each Venezuelan. Whether it be the effort that we put into what we do or our inability to “settle for less,” this trait has helped each Venezuelan overcome their hardships and fight for their happiness. In all, we have a lot of fun. A lot. But, we work hard and overcome adversity in order to be able to have this fun. Many of the Venezuelans in our school today had to move to the US just to escape the Venezuelan regime. If they didn’t, then either their parents or grandparents did. Moving to a different country and starting a new life from scratch is hard, but our shared resilience has pushed every one of us to face this problem head-on.

Overcoming linguistic barriers is one of the many difficulties that comes with moving countries. In fact, Hillel’s ESOL program is specifically designed to help recently immigrated students with their English language. In addition to this challenge, making new friends at a new school is hard for anyone, especially someone who is fairly different from their peers. Niki Melul is a current Venezuelan senior at Scheck Hillel, and he moved to Miami from Panama three years ago. When discussing his overall transition to this new country, Niki said, “I think the difficulty of this transition is understated. While it may seem easy from an outside perspective, it’s completely different for the person who is actually going through it. For some time, I found it hard to make friends because I did not speak the language that they spoke, and so it was hard for me to speak with them. Schoolwork was also very hard for me, given that I did not speak English, and the same classes I had been taking in Spanish were now being presented to me in a language I did not understand. Just overall, feeling different was hard. But over time, I’ve managed to work past these challenges. My resilience has allowed me to come out as a better version of myself on the other end, and I could not be happier. Today, I’m surrounded by amazing friends that I met here in Miami, and have done well in school, even in my English class!” As can be seen with Niki, the transition to a new country is fairly difficult. This “Venezuelan resilience” is shown by the way he approached this challenging situation with a positive mindset, and ended up better off than he was before.

Venezuelans are very fun and love to have a good time. We love to eat Venezuelan foods, the Arepa especially, and love to listen to Reggaeton. But whenever we’re not dancing or having fun, we are grinding and working hard towards our goals. We are extremely driven and motivated to succeed and push past adversity. Next time you see a Venezuelan in the halls, ask us more about our culture! We would love to share.

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